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November 1996 Reviews TOC

11/96 Reviews SYS: Hewlett Packard Vectra VA 6/200MT

Value Vectra Sports Pentium Pro

By James E. Powell

Hewlett-Packard has always made rock-solid powerhouses for corporate America and commanded premium prices. Now the company is introducing a value-priced Pentium Pro, the HP Vectra VA 6/200MT, and it runs like the wind. The preproduction mini-tower unit I tested came with 32MB of 60-nanosecond EDO DRAM standard (expandable to 192MB with memory bank upgrade) and 256KB of level 2 cache. Underneath the snap-off cover you'll find four external bays: a Hitachi 8X CD-ROM drive and a 3.5-inch floppy drive occupy two of them, with two 5.25-inch bays empty. One of the two internal bays holds the Quantum 1.28GB hard disk, while the other is free.

Both ISA slots are free (though one is only two-thirds length). One PCI slot is free; the other is used for a Matrox Millennium card with 2MB of WRAM; Cirrus Logic video is used for the desktop case models. One shared PCI/ISA slot is free, while the other is taken by the Sound Blaster-compatible sound card. On the back of the unit are the standard connections: one ECP bidirectional parallel port, two 9-pin serial ports and PS/2-style ports for the keyboard (a 104-key keyboard is included); the HP-branded two-button mouse is part of the package. There are also line and microphone inputs and speaker outputs for the sound card as well as a MIDI/joystick connector.

Unlike most PCs I've tested, the design is upside down. The motherboard is actually at the top of the system, with a black plastic air guide between the rear fan and the heat sink. (The fan is remarkably quiet.) In the middle of the unit are the expansion slots, while the peripherals and a 160-watt power supply are at the bottom. If the mini-tower sits on your desktop, access to the floppy and CD-ROM drives are comfortable. If it sits on the floor, they're out of the way and inconvenient. One plus: Access to the motherboard for adding RAM or peripheral ISA or PCI cards is completely unobstructed.

The VA 6/200MT blazed through our WINDOWS Magazine Wintune benchmarks, just as you'd expect for a Pentium Pro 200. It took a scant 4.33 seconds (average time) to make it through our Excel macro, and just 8.33 seconds (average) to complete the Word test. The CPU averaged 417MIPS, while uncached disk speed was 2.20MB per second. The disk speed is enhanced by the PCI Bus Master EIDE controller with PIO Mode 4 support.

The VA 6/200, delivered without a monitor, was preloaded with Windows NT Workstation 3.51, but no other software. NT 4.0 should be available by the time you read this. Also missing were a modem, not surprising for a business machine, and a network card (the VA 6/200's sibling, the XA 6/200, features integrated networking). All drivers and documentation were on two CD-ROMs-there were no printed manuals.

As this system is designed for corporate use, there's a boot-up password,and you can boot the system with the keyboard locked. Setup and password protection is in a serial EEPROM to guard against unauthorized changes. The BIOS is stored in flash EEPROM for easy updates. The system comes with a one-year on-site warranty and two additional years of free carry-in support.

The Vectra line has been a good performer, and the VA 6/200MT carries on the legacy. For speed and solid construction, the system is a good choice for your next NT workstation.

-- Info File --
HP Vectra VA 6/200MT
$3,125 (without monitor)
Pros: Speed; reliability
Cons: Position of external bays
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Hewlett-Packard Co.
WinMag Box Score 4.5

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